Ask Sam | Sam Smith opens his mailbag | 05.16.2014
Every Friday, Sam Smith of Bulls.com opens his Ask Sam mailbag and responds to the latest round of emails from his readers
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Who do you think the Bulls will draft this year? I was reading Bleacher Report the other day and it said we would probably draft Rodney Hood with the 16th pick and Shabazz Napier with the 19th. I thought that was pretty good, what do you think?
Sam: All the mock drafts are fun to read but essentially meaningless as the people who write them are basically not in contact with team officials and are just guessing based on an overall look at the players and matching them with the team. It’s not particularly accurate, though more so than the amazing coverage of the NFL draft for the last month or two on ESPN. I’m not sure who those guys are, but they literally come on every three days and change the order of picks even though nothing has happened. Though I guess it’s a heck of a confidence game as people watch it. Hey, I watched it also, I guess. With NBA teams just now at the draft camp this week doing interviews, basically no one has much of any idea whom they’ll select other than the top few teams. And we won’t have an idea about that until the lottery drawing next week. But there’s a big issue the league needs to clean up and is greatly affecting this draft and process: Many of the top picks are refusing to attend and even take physicals. What this is about is players trying to dictate where they’ll go. Say Joel Embiid doesn’t want to go to Milwaukee. He’s got a bad back. So he comes in for physicals maybe only in Cleveland or Orlando and skips Milwaukee and Philadelphia. Could Milwaukee or Philadelphia take a chance? It’s a terrible system that has been abused for years as some representatives have gone to great lengths to hide players, even sending them out of the country to potentially avoid a certain city as they won’t interview. You say this is the only way a player can have a say in where he goes. That’s fine, but the players’ association agreed to a draft in collective bargaining. The NBA and the players need to stop this now. It should be a requirement of every player to at the very least take a physical for the NBA. You can understand a top pick not wanting to work out in games for fear of injury. OK, that’s for lower picks trying to move up. Though you could never imagine Jordan or Magic saying they were afraid to compete. Even the Kings’ Isaiah Thomas sent out a Tweet Wednesday: “NBA predraft--where guys hide from competition. Can’t hide forever. LOL.” The league needs to make it clear: You refuse to come to league-sponsored draft camp and take a physical you are not draft eligible. Go play in Europe. We’re not denying you a right to make a living. It’s an embarrassment to the NBA the league is being manipulated like this and affecting the level playing field concept the league and players agreed upon in the last labor deal. The league should make a strong statement about that rather than continuing to feed the tabloid media with Sterling developments.
Is there any way this team could go after another star such as Love, Melo, or LeBron? I would say no, especially with the new CBA agreement. It seems like the new CBA will hurt the quality of the NBA in the long run, with teams unable to afford sustained championship runs over a period of years. Mid-level stars will become journeyman, going from team to team that can afford to pay them, while the true stars will lock up most of their teams' resources. The Bulls now have much of their money invested in Rose and Noah; Rose with his injury history and questions about returning to MVP form, and Noah with an injury history of his own and not a prototypical franchise player, especially offensively. I don't see that being the core for a championship team if we cannot add more high priced talent around them. The era of the dynasty may be coming to an end. The formula for winning may be a bunch of championship-less vets signing for the minimum to play with the likes of LeBron/Durant, or a Washington model of hoping a couple young stars playing on their rookie contracts can lead a team surrounded with some decent veteran talent. Either way, good teams can make a run for a couple years, but no owner is going to pay multiple years of the repeater tax to try build a dynasty. I guess it depends on how you look at it, but I would prefer the old NBA, with long term dynasties and rivalries battling it out, rather than random revamped rosters each year.
Sam: In a lot of ways you are correct. The new CBA was designed, in large part, to equalize the talent and limit the ability of teams to acquire multiple “stars” to become dominant. It was agreed the league would be a better place if more teams had a chance to compete on a high level, like in the NFL. The concept was to both be smart and lucky; in other words pay your players and hope they don’t get hurt. The Bulls highest paid player got hurt. The league view generally is too bad, that we’re not helping you recover. It’s one reason, I believe, the Bulls took the chance to trade Luol Deng. You cannot accumulate highly paid, eight-figure salaried players when you already had the two with Rose and Noah. Because of the injuries, the Bulls had to begin to put themselves in position to maybe get a replacement player or two or depth. You cannot do that without some pain and sacrifice. In other words, you can’t keep all your toys. It’s not as many fans believe about teams being cheap and not wanting to pay luxury tax. It’s the penalties when you are in the tax that prevent you from adding players in sign and trade deals, with the mid-level exception, all things you lose going into the tax. The formula for winning a championship is to be lucky and healthy; look at Indiana maybe going to the Finals with a No. 10 draft pick the biggest “star” on the team. No, you can’t count Evan Turner who rarely plays even the half season he’s been there. There probably has not been a less talented team going that far. It should be more common in the future. But they’ve been healthy and added some depth. It’s why this refrain all the time of “get a star” is mostly unrealistic because the rules of the day don’t want you having many. The Bulls have at least two now in Rose and Noah; the new rules make it difficult to have more.
With all the Steve Kerr talk going on, how do you think he will do? I just can't see him getting into a players face if needed. Phil Jackson is known for being unemotional, but I remember when Shaq would plow over Luc Longley and Jackson would get in Longley face and yell at him. I just can't see Kerr doing that.
Sam: There’s this view a lot of people have from the Bear Bryant/Bobby Knight school that coaching is screaming at someone; it is not. It’s being smart, being able to get along with and communicate with people and having a belief in a system that emphasizes selfless play and can help a player improve. No one knows how anyone will do just starting out. But it strikes me that Kerr is well suited for that kind of job because of the qualities I mentioned and that I see him having. Success ultimately depends on the talent you have. I read a story the other day of all these unique and special analytics the Houston Astros of baseball are using and how far advanced they are. And with the worst record in baseball, I think. I think Kerr will do well as now going to the Warriors he has the kind of guard oriented stars shooters he’ll understand as they are better than he was. He’ll add a big man coach, perhaps someone like Bill Cartwright, who worked for the Suns when Steve was in Phoenix. He communicates and understands the NBA game. I see him like a Doc Rivers type, though Doc had some very poor years before the titles in Boston. It takes a while.
It's a good thing that the Knicks have that handshake agreement with Thibs to coach their team next season. Otherwise, losing out on Kerr might be a problem!
Seriously, though, isn't this the worst possible outcome for the Knicks? Phil was hired with no front office experience because his reputation and his ability to interact with people was supposed to be enough to get things done, and then the first really big target he goes after he can't land a coach with no experience to head up the New York Knicks. Do you think Phil's next step is to go after another triangle disciple, maybe Cartwright, or pursue Mark Jackson as a positive PR move?
Sam: Kurt Rambis? Phil—and really any GM or team president—prefers people they know and share their views. You really can’t point to a lack of Jackson not having an appeal because a family situation trumps any employment. Kerr has a son in high school, so his wife wasn’t moving the family, and his daughter is a Division I athlete playing at Cal/Berkeley in Oakland of all places. Once the Golden State job came up it would seem tough for Kerr to turn down an offer there. He didn’t know he’d get one and would have gone with Jackson. But Phil’s not going to be there all the time and there’s no days off coaching and New York in December and January can be pretty bleak with your family and kids all on the West Coast. Maybe even your boss at times. Rick Fox? Derek Fisher? Luke Walton? Brian Shaw in a three-way coaching trade with Thibs. Nah. If he didn’t have two years left on his deal I’d say Kobe. Previous experience obviously isn’t an issue anymore.
Any chance the Bulls make a run at Paul Pierce ? We have a hole at the 3, wouldn't cost much (compared to Melo) and he has history with Thibs.
Sam: I could see that making sense as I don’t see that much of competitive situation any longer in Brooklyn and it not being the time for Pierce to return to Boston as they are far from competing. Pierce can make shots and you can still play Jimmy Butler at shooting guard with a small forward perimeter shooter like Pierce, who is an unrestricted free agent. And it would give Pierce another legitimate shot at LeBron James and a title. Works for me.
KG has one more year left at a little over $12mil. If Pierce leaves the Nets, KG might retire. $12mil is hard to walk away from of course, but I doubt he'd want to play another year on another mediocre team.
Do you think the Bulls could trade Booz for KG, straight up, and then sign Pierce with the mid-level?
Sam: I can see Pierce; not Garnett as much as Thibs may like to get the band back together. We saw with Garnett taking off back to backs and playing limited minutes all season he still didn’t have much left for the playoffs. And, of course, if you were not to amnesty Boozer you would be limited to pretty much just that midlevel. Pierce gives you veteran experience and shooting. Pierce with Garnett just makes you too old.
If the Nets want to unload Deron and the Rockets strike out on Melo how about Deron for Lin and Asik? Nets could even flip Asik to a third team. Nets do this in part to start a total rebuild. PP and KG are pretty much done with them, Blatche and Livingston will seek better deals elsewhere as will AK47. Lin and Asik and each one year left at 15 mil.
Sam: Houston is looking to unload Asik and Lin to make a run at Anthony. I don’t think you can move Lin and the $15 million backloaded he’s due next season. But you may be able to move Asik, whom I’ve already heard several teams, like Atlanta to move Al Horford to four, are pursuing. The Hawks could look pretty good with that front court. Houston likes “stars,” though Williams hardly qualifies anymore. I see the Nets have trotted out the bad ankle excuse for him again, and he’d have broken some 20-yard dash figures the way he ran away from shots in that clinching game against the Heat. With Williams 30 this summer, in steep decline, a bad locker room presence and owed $63 million for the next three years, I don’t see how that would help the Rockets as much as it would the Nets.
This is certainly not the 'Big Three' LeBron envisioned winning not 3, not 4, not 5, not 6... With Wade at 32 years and seemingly on a significant decline, why would LeBron not opt out this summer and look for a better support cast like he did in 2010?
Sam: That may be why the Cavs fired Mike Brown. They fired him once before to try to get LeBron to stay. Maybe it will work this time. As I discussed above, this NBA isn’t about five and six and seven. It’s about making your run when you can. It seems clear that the Heat’s is about at an end with maybe one more on the strength of James. Wade can be productive, but he lacks explosiveness and is no longer a special player. It’s not his fault. It happens. He’s 32 and has had a hard 11 years. It’s not all that fall down seven get up eight stuff. He also spent two years essentially alone, averaging maybe 38 minutes a game as the Heat broke down their team to get LeBron and Bosh and build what they have now. But Wade’s competitiveness wouldn’t allow him to miss the playoffs. So he pushed so hard and he’s no 6-8 Adonis like LeBron. It probably took two to three years off his career. The sacrifices Wade made to reach championships go far beyond giving up being the top scorer. Perhaps Pat Riley can pull off another miracle. But it’s not inconceivable that LeBron with a young core of players and another lottery pick in a strong draft decides to opt out and return to Cleveland with maybe his coach to select, which is why I assume this search lasts awhile. Would LeBron stay another year and then go to New York in 2015? Forget Melo. Maybe LeBron takes slightly less to play in Chicago with old buddy Noah. Oh no! Don’t start that again!
With all this fuzz about the refs call at the end of Clips-Thunder Game 5, where do you stand with the replays? My opinion is to take it out, for a few reasons. First, it slows the game and halts momentum. I prefer a more dynamic game. Second, if the aim is to "get it right", then it makes no sense it can only be used in the last 2 minutes. Why is it less important to get it right in any other moment of the game? And last, it makes little sense that they cannot change anything when reviewing, even if something blatant, as a not called foul is seen in the review. I'd be willing to agree to teams calling out review 2 or 3 times a game, at their discretion.
Sam: It's a difficult issue as technology has far surpassed human abilities. So there are so many cases of replay finding mistakes humans never would see. So leagues are forced into using it. Then humans have to interpret it and they are not as good as the machines. They can be friendlier, though they eat more. Then the league has to balance not slowing the game to look at every play and at least getting a few more correct. Replay is a given because TV now can produce a half dozen slow motion looks the human eye never could identify. And everyone wants the correct result. So, yes, it’s unfair that you cannot have the correct result all game, but you have to draw a line somewhere and say the game would last 12 hours if we broke down every play. Though I think Thibs has voted for that. It will be an evolving process like it is in other sports. The Clippers’ play was unfortunate with the situation of a foul causing a turnover and the officials only able to examine the possession. So you are rewarded for a violation. The league should look into that where you give the officials some discretion on a “complete play” to look at if one action caused the result. But again there will be second guessing and as long as you are involving humans you cannot guarantee having it correct all the time. The NBA does the best it can and as Doc Rivers notes the officials are not cheating or playing favorites but trying to get it right and stay out of the way. With the constant advances in technology it’s not possible.
Do you think we have the pieces to trade for any of these players, without trading Noah or Gibson? Gordon Hayward; Arron Afflalo; Wesley Mathews; Kevin Martin; Victor Oladipo.
Sam: You mean trade some of your secondary reserves for some other teams’ best young prospects or highest scorers? I guess you can always dream.
I read that D.J.’s agent is looking for a 3 year 20 mil deal, is there a chance they may just look at keeping Jimmer instead??
Sam: I assume Jimmer wants to go where he has a better chance to play; I still believe in the right spot he can be a productive NBA player. As for D.J., that’s what agents are paid to do. I’d love to see him remain in Chicago as he’s a solid guy and good scorer. But if he gets that he better take it because if he didn’t it would suggest he’s not smart enough to be a point guard.
What is the deal with Nick Young of the Lakers? He seems like a good potential FA pick-up for the bulls as a perimeter shooter. What kind of baggage does he carry that makes him less desirable?
Sam: I think a lot of people who coach Nick ask what’s the deal with him. I assume he finds a way to stay in L.A. as they have lots of money and not many players and not many prospects and he has created this Swaggy P alter ego which he seems to enjoy. The basic problem with Nick is he not only believes basketball is a one-man game but he doesn’t seem to realize there are others on the court besides him.
With Mark Jackson out with the Warriors, where do you think Coach Myers will land? Do you think he will ever get a chance to be a head coach in the NBA?
Sam: I think they all have a year left on their contracts, so they have some time. I’ve talked to Pete and he’d like to get back working. I don’t think he has any desire to be a head coach. But he’s one of the best assistants in the league not only because of his knowledge of the game but because of his unique school of contacts around the league that enables him to be an important figure in an organization because of his ability to network. He’d be a great addition to return to the Bulls if any of their assistants leave for head coaching jobs as Adrian Griffin has been mentioned in connection with the Cavs and Jazz and Ed Pinckney has been on a number of prospective coaching lists.
I've noticed that Derrick Rose is a much better spot up three-point shooter, than when he takes them off the dribble. Stats from what I've read, seem to back up that point. I know the three is very important to help the spacing in the Bulls offense, but in Derrick's second season, he was getting really accurate with the 18 footer off the dribble, and I'd like to see him get back to shooting that one a bit more often, for efficiency purposes. He's seemed to get away from shooting that 18 footer when he's been on the court in the last couple of years. Does he need the extra space the three provides because he's not very tall?
Sam: It will be a revelation to all of us when Derrick returns as he’s basically been practicing shooting for two years. And we know he likes to practice. The first glimpse should be in late July in Las Vegas when USA Basketball begins its tryouts for the World Cup games in August.
Realize that training methods have improved a lot, but the human beings haven't evolved that much in the last 50 years but sports medicine has. So, let the basketball players play. You beat other teams with better players outplaying players that aren't as good. Use the guys that get it done. Fan POV: we tune in to watch stars do amazing things, not sit in their sweats and suck on a water bottle. No offense to NBA players past or present, but if it's about sitting there, sign up Kate Upton and put her on the bench in something skimpy. On the other hand, play the best guys. We've had our analytics thread. The one that I hear lately is that midrange is a dead zone. Huh? For starters, as a fan, I pretty much hated Robert Horry's game. He was an athletic 6'10" guy who was either dunk or three pointer. Boring! On the other hand, I found riveting Chet Walker, Bobby Dandridge, Dennis Johnson, Bird (of course), the Doc, Worthy, Barkley, Alex English, wow is this list getting long... up 'til today Nash and actually Derrick Rose with his floater release from about 10ft out. In all these years as a fan, Tiny had the single most unreal season I ever saw and midrange was his base of operations that year. So very much basketball gets played in the mid-range. Please, please, please don't take that away.
Sam: It is the debate and the change in the game these days that is taking a lot away from the NBA in the view of some. I know I’m shaking my head at times as guys get to the rim and then throw it 25 feet away. I can’t say the three has ruined the game or the game is poor; the game, as you suggest, retains its hold and elegance because of the great talents. So two issues there: Let ‘em play. Certainly in the playoffs there’s no excuse as you rest too long and you have plenty of time to do so the next five months. Everyone points to the Spurs as the model, but there’s no coach like Popovich. Not because he’s smarter, but no one has the security. You lose and you lose your job. The Bulls debate is interesting as in a sense they are being punished for playing so well. They didn’t have the talent without Rose and Deng to be a top four team and more than a first round playoff team. But then when they got there and didn’t get farther it was viewed as something of a failure. The truth is if they’d have coasted and rested guys long stretches like the Spurs they may not even have made the playoffs. And certainly nowhere near the top four. They produced an entertaining season with their performance. They went as far as they could. It’s also fun watching the Spurs as while they do shoot threes, they can beat you on the drive and in the lane with twos like teams did in the 60’s and 70’s. The Thunder would be even better if Russell Westbrook stuck to that mid-range shot, which is his best, instead of pulling up for so many of those bad threes. I know the formula that 33 percent from three equals 50 percent from two. But math formulas win more in the stock market and black jack than basketball. It was sweet to see Portland with LaMarcus Aldridge making all those mid-range shots beat the Rockets firing those crazy threes. Sure, it could have gone the other way as the games were close. But it still seems to make sense the closer you are to the basket the better chance you have of scoring. And the more skill there is in the game.